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Detroit Metro Area Legal Blog

What will happen to your digital afterlife?

In past generations, family members, fiduciaries and other individuals often had to scour through safe-deposit boxes, desks and boxes to gather documents and photos left behind by a loved one. As our culture continues to move further away from paper toward a paperless society, more and more assets and memories are stored in the cloud. Our digital lifestyle has made it vital for individuals to address digital assets in estate planning documents, such as a will and powers of attorney.

Michigan Law Allows You To Define Access To Your Digital Afterlife

Many digital accounts hold assets that may be sentimental in nature, or financially important. In this digital age, Michigan law provides authority under the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (FADAA). Estate planning attorney Howard H. Collens recently appeared on WXYZ-TV in Detroit to discuss how individuals can address their digital legacies should they become incapacitated or pass away.

Should your estate make room for frozen embryos?

When most people hear the phrase "estate plan," they usually associate the task of allocating assets, assigning executors and beneficiaries, and establishing trusts to elderly folks with money. What is actually the case is that most individuals who have assets benefit from developing an estate plan. In the past, drawing up a list of assets and property could involve cars, sentimental items, a house or money saved in a banking account.

If you have been following our blog, you know that the items that can be included in an estate plan today vary from tangible to the conceptual, located in a deposit box or an online account. Due to the law's ever-evolving recognition of what constitutes an asset, estate plans may need to be updated to reflect the variety of assets an individual possesses. The same can be said for the diverse set of beneficiaries that can be referenced in the documents that constitute an estate plan.

Understanding tax deeds and quiet title actions in Michigan

The residential and commercial real estate markets in Detroit, and throughout Michigan, have been taken on a proverbial roller-coaster ride in recent years. Despite past turmoil, investing in real estate remains a vital interest for homeowners, investors and businesses alike. Protecting financial interests in any real estate investment is critical. With many properties changing hands due to tax liens foreclosure, mortgage foreclosure and multiple investment transactions, the risk of finding a cloud on the title to a specific piece of property is real.

Sales Of Foreclosed and Tax-Forfeited Properties Remain High In Michigan

Sales of tax-forfeited properties and foreclosed properties increased dramatically following the real estate market meltdown in 2007, according to MiBiz. The upward trend has continued, creating an increase in property available through tax auctions each year. Investors, future homeowners and businesses can often purchase real estate at low cost in a tax auction. These transactions, however, can be more complex than a more traditional real estate transaction. Notably, the Foreclosing Governmental Unit (FGU) will typically transfer the property through a quit-claim deed, providing the buyer with whatever title the FGU held - which could include a variety of defects that cloud the title.

Unmarried cohabitating couples face unique estate issues

Unmarried couples who live together in Michigan face a unique set of legal matters related to estate and probate planning. Couples who live together but aren't married may be doing so for a variety of reasons. Usually, these types of couples are younger and do not believe in the institution of marriage, or they are elderly and have a more platonic, financially-centered relationship.

Whatever the reason, unmarried couples are not afforded the same set of estate and probate planning securities as married couples. Although it is rarely cited or enforced, Michigan is one of just a few states where it is technically illegal to cohabitate as an unmarried couple. However, a bill issued in the 2016 legislative session, Senate Bill 896, reached the Senate floor with a recommendation to pass.

Understanding Powers of Attorney in Michigan

No matter how much we try, we cannot predict the future. The best we can do is to prepare for it. If you are at any point unable to manage your assets and affairs, you will want someone in charge of all of these things whom you have chosen and that you know has your best interests in mind. When someone is in the position of legally making decisions on behalf of another, they are known as having power of attorney.

A power of attorney is just a legal document. It provides a person of your choosing with the ability to act in your place should you ever be unable to do so yourself. There are a few forms of a power of attorney and they all have specific roles to perform.

Contesting a will in Michigan

If you suspect the will your loved one left is not what they intended it to be, you may have grounds to contest their will. Contesting a will simply means that you are concerned about the validity of the document. Although this is somewhat rare, it is certainly possible, but before you can contest the will you must meet certain qualifications.

In the state of Michigan, you must be a beneficiary of the will, if there is a will, or an individual who would have inherited if the deceased did not have a will when they died. These titles usually apply to spouses, children, parents, etc. It should be noted that even though most wills have a clause in them that specifically states that anyone who contests the will is immediately unable to inherit, Michigan law states that a no-contest clause is not enacted if there are legitimate grounds for contesting the will.

Information first-time Michigan landlords should know

Buying and renting property represents a significant investment for landlords. If you are unfamiliar with the process it can be intimidating, especially if you are renting out property for the first time, but when done correctly it can go smoothly while also providing a consistent source of income. Each state has its own landlord-tenant laws so it is important to become familiar with them before renting out property.

The choice of a tenant is one that should be made careful, as you want your property treated well and with due respect. While landlords in Michigan are free to deny applicants based on factors like poor prior renting practices or bad credit, you must ensure that you comply with all fair housing laws. Under state and federal law, applicants cannot be denied housing due to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status (having children), disability, age, or marital status.

It is not always a tenant complaint that starts legal trouble

Landlords who own apartment complexes or other forms of residential rental properties provide necessary housing for people from all walks of life. In many ways, complying with the complex regulations that apply to residential property management in the Detroit area is complex. Anti-discrimination laws and rules that seem to limit landlords in securing agreements with residents are not always as clear-cut as they should be. In other situations, discriminatory practices may seem fairly obvious and easier to avoid for a proactive landlord.

Many landlord-tenant disputes, and even claims of discrimination in renting, can erupt when a disgruntled tenant or applicant makes some sort of complaint - either directly to the landlord or property manager, or externally. However, city or state officials may act without a complaint to search for reasons to investigate residential landlords. A recent story in the Detroit Free Press highlights how a landlord's potential misunderstand of local regulations can lead to significant legal problems.

What happens if estate assets are missing?

During the probate process, the personal representative (which is sometimes referred to as the executor) will inventory the estate of the deceased. Occasionally, documents or assets that the personal representative knows about may be difficult to find. A missing asset may have been misplaced over time, but problems can arise if suspicions arise between family members concerning the whereabouts of large assets.

  • Did a family member take assets surreptitiously?
  • Did the personal representative mishandle estate assets?
  • Did a trust administrator misuse his or her power and breach a fiduciary duty?

Smoke-Free Provisions in Apartment Leases

Throughout Michigan, more and more owners of market-rate apartment buildings are choosing to make their properties smoke-free. This makes good business sense because: 

  • There is a preference by tenants for smoke-free facilities.
  • The rehab cost for a unit occupied by a non-smoker is much lower than the cost for a unit occupied by a smoker.
  •  About 9 percent of apartment fires are caused by smoking.
  • Allowing smoking in a multiunit residential building potentially puts the owner at risk for civil litigation by non-smokers under common law theories, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.
  • Implementing a non-smoking policy can increase the re-sale value of a building.

It all sounds good, but for the owner of a multiunit residential building, several questions arise. How can the owner implement a non-smoking policy? What should the owner do regarding current tenants who smoke? What about a prospective tenant who is certified to use medical marijuana?

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